Autel X-Star Premium Drone Short Review
The Autel X-Star Premium drone is a legitimate alternative to the DJI Phantom 3 series. Although it doesn’t come with as many features as its DJI counterpart, it still is an awesome drone with many features that will keep you very busy. Its 4K ultra HD camera with 108º FOV and 3 axis gimbal will provide distortion-free video footage. It also comes with several intelligent modes and with the Star-Link App, you can live stream video footage from over a mile away. UPDATE: This drone has been discontinued, click on the green button for alternatives.
- 4K Camera with 3-Axis Gimbal
- 12 Megapixels
- Intelligent flight modes
- 35mph top speed
- 1.2 miles range
- Robust build
- Comes with waterproof carry case
Welcome to my review of the Autel X-Star premium drone,this is a drone that has a canny similarity to DJI’s Phantom range both in design and features.
Autel Robotics is one of those brands that are looking to challenge the more established drone companies that manufacture high-end drones. They are a premium brand that is in a similar price bracket to some of the big boys of the drone world (like DJI and Yuneec).
However, Autel doesn’t have a big enough brand to justify using the super premium price tags that DJI do. To compensate for this lack of brand power Autel’s products are usually priced a little cheaper than the larger companies despite claiming to be comparable quality.
However, the real question is this.
Just how well do Autel’s products stack up when put head to head against well-known brands like DJI?
The X-Star Premium from Autel is one of the company’s flagship models. It’s earned itself quite a reputation for quality and performance since it was first released. Today I am going to see if it can stand the heat and be seen as a viable alternative to other drones from premium brands (mainly the DJI Phantom 4 Pro) in this impartial Autel X-Star Pro drone review.
Let’s get started.
Autel X-Star Premium Specs
- Weight – 1.6kg
- Propeller Size – 9.4″× 5.5″
- Reciever Frequency – 5.727 GHz – 5.8 GHz
- Flight Modes – GPS• ATTI• IOC
- Photography Modes – 12mp single shot,AEB,Bracketed,Time-lapse
- Video Modes – 4K Ultra HD,FHD,HD
- Frame Rates – 4K@30,2.7K@60,1080p@120
- FOV – 108°
- Top Speed – 35 mph
Autel X-Star Premium Review
If you know anything at all about drones you’ll probably instantly recognize the appearance of the X-Star Pro. It’s been designed to look almost identical to a DJI Phantom.
This can’t have been an accident, it’s uncanny how similar it is. Many people call the X-Star Pro a “Phantom Clone” due to the company taking “inspiration” from the classic design from DJI.
The X-Star Pro is made from a thick and durable plastic that doesn’t buckle or wobble when put under a little pressure (unlike some cheaper drones). Despite being a “clone” of the Phantom, it does seem to retain the same structural strength as the DJI. It’s 4 large rotors have a wingspan of around 352mm and provide excellent lift and thrust.
Like most premium drones there is no casing protecting the rotors (because this allows for maximum performance). This means that this isn’t really a product for new drone pilots. If you accidentally fly a little too close to something and even slightly clip one of the rotors it’s game over.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out why this would be bad. It’s going to leave you with a very expensive pile of scrap after your drone crashes.
Note: Autel have a beginner mode on the X-Star Pro but this does not help with collision avoidance. It simply limits the speed and maximum range of the drone.
The controller supplied with the X-Star Pro is extremely well made. It’s clear that Autel has put quite a bit of effort into making this thing as intuitive and clutter free as possible. It feels great in the hand and has a little bit of weight to it (but it’s not too heavy).
To fly the X-Star Pro you’re going to need to download Autel’s app on your smartphone and use it in combination with the controller (Android 4.2 or iOS 8 or later required). The app itself is perhaps a little less sleek and attractive than DJI’s offerings – but it gets the job done.
It easily shows you all the information like battery life, distance, and altitude (without having to navigate several menus). As you would expect the app includes all the “standard” features you would expect to see on a drone like this including waypoints, orbiting, and following.
However, despite the app looking a little less “polished” than DJI’s app, there are some awesome features that are unique to Autel (which should prove to some of the haters that Autel is more than just a DJI clone).
What I really love is their custom made Starpoint system. Without going into the technical details, this awesome feature basically means you can use your drone in locations where there is no GPS signal. This opens up a whole new world of off the beaten track flying locations and is something that not many other brands are able to offer.
The physical components of the controller are top notch. The joysticks are quite honestly some of the best I have ever laid my thumbs on. They provide enough resistance to allow for delicate manoeuvres but are fluid enough to do some crazy tricks (if you’re brave enough).
The flight buttons located at the bottom of the controller are all reasonably self-explanatory and clearly labelled. They require a good firm press to operate and are slightly recessed too. This means accidents from accidental presses are less likely while you’re concentrating on flying.
Something I particularly like about the controller of the X-Star Pro is the way the camera controls have been placed. They are located on the side and rear of the controller away from all the other flight controls. I know that this may seem like a common sense design pattern, but you’d be surprised just how many controllers muddle the flight controls with the camera controls.
You can start and stop recording with a very enticing big red button on the back. There’s also an exposure wheel and a few other buttons to control what (and how) you record located on the sides.
The controller has a range of 2km and operates on 2.4ghz. This is the same frequency that is used by Wi-Fi and the signals can occasionally interfere with drone operation. I tested this with the X-Star Pro (as best I could) and noticed no interference when operating near strong Wi-Fi signals.
The camera is probably the best component about this drone. It’s an amazing piece of kit that rivals anything else on the market (even from DJI). I quite honestly believe it’s one of the best drones for aerial photography. It shoots in 4k ultra HD at 40fps which makes for some simply stunning videos.
There are a variety of other FPS settings that enable you to customize your shooting if you wish. You can shoot 1080p at 120fps, and 720p at 240fps, great news for people who love to take dramatic high frame rate shots.
As with most drones, the camera performs better when taking still images as opposed to video. However, to be totally honest the difference is reasonably negligible between the two modes if you’re not moving fast.
On the subject of moving, this is a camera that can deal with just about anything you throw at it. It’s more than capable of taking crystal clear high-speed videos without any artifacts or blurring affecting the quality of the video.
Unlike some other drones, you don’t have to set the camera up with the X-Star Premium, it comes already attached to the gimbal and body when you take it out of the box. In fact, the entire drone is pre-assembled when you buy it. No installation or setup required, simply download the app, charge the battery, and you’re ready to start flying.
However, the pre-built nature of the camera and gimbal do present some “issues” that may annoy some people. The X-Star Premium is not compatible with any other camera, it has to be used with the one that it comes attached with.
For me, this isn’t really an issue because the camera included is one of the best I have ever used. I can’t think of any situation where you would really want to swap it out for something else. But if you do have some niche reason why you’d need to mount a custom camera, then this isn’t the product for you.
The other positive part of the camera system is the incredible 3 axis gimbal that attaches it to the body of the drone. It’s super stable and super reliable, even at high speeds.
Your shots will be effortlessly smooth without any intervention whatsoever. The only time you’re likely to encounter issues with camera stability is in high wind situations. However, you probably shouldn’t be flying in these conditions anyway (so it’s unfair to expect the stabilization to work).
Check out the awesome video footage to see the Autel X-Star premium drone in action
Autel X-Star Premium- Flight Time
This is a pretty fast drone considering its size. It’s super fun to fly when it reaches its top speed of 36 mph. It’s pretty nippy at ascending and descending too with its 6 m/s accent and a 3 m/s decent speeds.
The drone is reasonably responsive and agile (considering its size). However, you need to set your expectations correctly here. This is a drone designed to take stunning video shots, not do insane backflips and tricks. If that’s what you’re after, you should start looking elsewhere.
Many people recommend that it’s best to fly the X-Star Pro as high as possible due to some weird issues that occur with the altitude sensor at low heights.
Disclaimer: This never happened to me.
Apparently, the X-Star Pro can sometimes randomly ascend and descend by around 5 feet when being flown lower than 20 ft. This could be seriously bad news if you’re trying to get some shots close to the ground. Luckily this isn’t a common shooting style so I am not marking the drone down for these bug reports too much.
But if this is a real issue (I have no evidence to suggest it is) then I urge Autel to sort the issue out ASAP if they haven’t already.
The auto take-off and landing functionality are pretty simple and very reliable. The drone can look a little wobbly at times on its way down (which does lead to an occasionally tense landing or two). But despite this, every time the X-Star Pro came through and landed gently without any issues whatsoever.
The X-Star Pro has some of the best battery life on the market in this (or any) price bracket. The drone contains what Autel calls an “intelligent battery”.
The X-Star Pro is advertised as being able to fly for 25 minutes on a full charge, as usual,you should expect a little less than that, anything over 20 minutes is still better than most drones. Battery level indications were clear and consistent and notifications were prompt and obvious when the battery level reached certain thresholds.
Charging time is a little bit strange on the X-Star Pro. The charger included with the drone always takes an hour to charge full – regardless of how full it is before you put it on charge.
Some people praise this reliability and predictability, but to be honest I think it sucks. I don’t want to be waiting for a battery that is already charged due to “consistency”.
However, either way, a 1 hour charging time is darn good, especially when you get 25 minutes of flying time out of each battery. With two batteries and a single charger, you can be flying almost constantly for as long as you like (which I did, and it was a lot of fun).
To be totally honest, there’s not much to dislike about this drone. It’s a well-made product that is almost the very definition of good value. If you buy the X-Star Premium you don’t get the big name brand recognition of DJI, but you do get one heck of a good drone.
The Phantom 4 Pro does beat it in terms of safety features with its obstacle avoidance technology, this is one area where the Autel X-Star could be vastly improved. The DJI Go App is more superior to the Starlink app as it has more features and is less buggy.
To be totally honest if the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and the X-Star Premium were priced similarly then I would definitely recommend the DJI. There’s nothing wrong with the Autel, but the DJI Phantom 4 Pro does have better features
The Autel X-Star Premium is almost 50% cheaper than the Phantom 4 Pro at the time of writing.
It’s great fun, reliable, has a great battery, and is full of useful functionality. When all that is combined with the insanely good camera (and the even better gimble) this drone gets even better.
This is one of the best drones for aerial photography you can get at a reasonable price point.
All that goodness combined with a very reasonable price point makes the Autel X-Star Premium an easy recommendation.